Category Archives: Masters

Camille Przewodek Workshops

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that I often study with Camille Przewodek, a fantastic plein air colorist painter from Northern California. I recently chronicled my workshop experience with her in Kauai (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). She’s a great teacher, and has such a unique perspective on color, I can highly recommend her. You’ll learn things about color you just won’t learn in a typical workshop.

There are still spaces remaining in Camille Przewodek’s final 2008 workshops — Sept 15-19 and Sept 29-Oct 3, in Petaluma CA.

Click here for the flyer.

Enjoy! Let me know if you sign up.

Mark Kerckhoff Workshop, Day 3

While the high winds continued today in the desert, the class went on and Mark continued to help us focus on his tonal method. He starts by blocking in a single, middle value for each plane in the landscape (sky, ground, slanted, upright). Here’s a quick video that shows two of my studies today in the drawing stage to the completed study.

I painted as many small studies as possible today, to get feedback from Mark on following his technique. Here’s the first, a study done while hunkering down under the hatchback of my car (damn winds!)

Through the Trees, Oil on Linen, 12×9

I stayed hunkered in the shelter of the windbreak formed by my car for this next study, cliffs in shadow. I tried to keep in simple, again focusing on separation of planes of light.

Desert Cliffs, Oil on Canvas

The winds grew too strong by the afternoon, so we moved to the shelter of a nearby grove of palms. Did two studies here, both from a nice sheltered spot. I’m happy with the brush strokes and overall composition.

Through Palms, Oil on Linen

My spot in the palm grove was relatively sheltered, so I turned right and painted another scene through the palms, this time focusing on the distant hills, which were beautifully lit.

Through Palms #2, Oil on Linen

After completing back-to-back workshops, one with a colorist, the other a tonalist, I have some thoughts on the difference between two. Whereas a colorist (at least as practiced by Camille Przewodek) will start with very high-key, intense underpaintings and then tone it down with local color to finish; tonalists focus on values, often starting with neutral underpaintings, and then gradually brining up the color to finish.
Each technique has it’s uses. My thought right now is the tonalist approach is best for paintings that are more quiet, calm lighting, etc, whereas colorist approaches might be best for full-sun, colorful subjects. This is probably over-simplifying, but I’m going with this theory for now.

What do you think?

Mark Kerckhoff Workshop, Day 2

The “Sausage Fest” continued today (did I mention that all the students are men? I guess Mark’s warning to “watch out for rattlesnakes” scared some people off–not you, Camille! :-).

High winds cut today’s painting day short, but we hung in there as long as we could. Even while sitting in the back of my SUV, I had trouble keeping my easel upright. That’s why plein air painting is tough, man!

I did one complete looser painting that I quickly wiped off and erased from my memory and digital camera. I know I should probably talk about looser paintings too, and why they’re so. Well, this painting’s elements (ground, trees, hills, etc) where not INTEGRATED. They didn’t harmonize. I got to punching up a green here, an orange there, and in the end it looked like a couple different ideas all struggling for attention. That reminds me, I have a blog post coming up on the power of simplification in your design. Watch for that soon.

Back to today. Here’s the first stage, following Mark’s technique of laying in flat, average values for each of the planes of the landscape. I’d also started laying in the darks, so this is stage 1+. The is a very basic, transparent wash in of neutral color–roughly of the eventual local color family.

Next, I started to hone in the color and value of each plane. In this shot, the hills, sky and a bit of the near palms are starting to take shape.

Now my intuition said to stop at this stage, and luckily the winds forced the issue. It’s so easy to overwork a painting and continue explaining beyond the necessary. Know what you want to say, and stick to it. As you can see here, I explained the ground plane a bit more, and this photograph doesn’t shot it, but the nearby palms as well.

Thousand Palms Vista – Oil on Linen – 10×12

I’m really happy with this one!

One more day of class. Check in tomorrow.

Mark Kerckhoff Workshop, Day 1

Mark Kerckhoff choose a great location for today’s first day of class, Indian Canyons. These studies were done in Palm Canyon, at the bottom of the hill from the Trading Post.

Mark’s technique is interesting–very different from Camille Przewodek’s. He first draws with Indian Ink and water. You’d think such a drawing would be erased by the first layer of transparent paint, but no! It stays there. I guess this is a good or bad thing, depending on your approach. It may be distracting to have those marks there, but hey, paint’s thicker and more opaque, so it’s easy to cover if you need to.

He then washes in his first transparent paint layer based on the landscape planes described by John F. Carlson (from lightest to darkest): Sky, Flat Plane (eg, ground), Slanted Plane (eg, hillside), and Upright Plane (eg, tree). He selects a mid-tone gray wash in the middle of the darkest dark and lightest light FOR THAT PLANE. He then brings up the local color for each object.

Is a picture worth a thousand words? You bet, that’s why I took today’s demo pictures and made a little video on YouTube. Click to go to YouTube and watch:

Click to Watch

Here are my two studies for the day. Enjoy! BTW, either is far sale for $100 each–my workshop study sale! Shipping included!

Indian Canyons 1 – Oil on Linen – 12×9

Indian Canyons #2 – Oil on Linen – 12×8

Camille Przewodek Workshop, Day 6

Like all great workshops, I leave this week realizing how much I don’t know and energized to apply what I’ve learned to reach “the next level”. My goal is a bit lofty, and may not be attainable in one lifetime, but I really want to combine the compositional strength of Andrew Wyeth, with the poetic brushwork/expression of Nicolai Fechin and Segei Bongart, and the color sense of Camille Przewodek of the Henry Henche/Charles W. Hawthorne school.

Like Hawthorne, Camille had us focus on the figure largely in shadow, so we could explore the color of flesh in shadow. The study on the left is full sun, the right overcast light. She didn’t complete these to a level of “finish”.

Here’s my gray study study of a figure almost entirely in shadow:

Figure Study in Shadow (Overcast) – Oil on Linen


Camille Przewodek Workshop, Day 5

Another full day today painting! I took off a bit early to soak in the hot tub. Perfect. Tomorrow we paint the figure, which will be a nice change of pace.

Here’s Camille’s first demo start (Wai’oli Hui’ia Church, 1912). The lighting conditions were overcast. You can see how she starts with flat masses of rich color. No modeling at this point. She also knows where she’s headed, eg, the far-right middle spot of Magenta will end up being a clump of trees. She’ll work green into it later, but for now she’s making it a rich red to bring it forward, and due to the fact that overcast days emit a cool light, which means warm shadows.

Here’s the near-finish.

I really like the composition in her second demo. Again, the light conditions where overcast, so a cool light, warm shadows. Remember that everything is relative. She carefully placed color notes in relation to each other, both warm/cool and value.

Here’s the finished study.

As for my work today: the day shifted from cloudy to sunny every few minutes, so I split my canvas in half and worked back-and-forth, sometimes minutes apart! You really can’t paint “the light” if it’s constantly shifting, so if you’re painting in conditions like these, consider splitting your canvas, or bringing two to work on.

The sunny version on the left is just the start, it didn’t stay sunny long enough to finish. I’m happy with the gray day side. I went back-and-forth quite a bit between color spots to get them to harmonize and read (by value). Overcast days are a great time to learn, because you’re not “chasing the light”. Even so, the cloud cover varied quite a bit, so it was definitely a challenge.

Here’s the finish:

Wai oli Hui ia Church (Overcast) – Oil on Linen – 8×6

Camille Przewodek Workshop, Day 4

More mixed weather today, sun in the morning, overcast in the afternoon. I have two images by Camille, one for me. I only kept one as I spent the morning doing several starts, wiping off each start as I went.

Here’s her first start in the morning:

Here’s the near finish…she said she’d adjust a few areas, but it’s close and again shows you how she transitions paintings. Note the dark warm shadows in the foreground trees, the high intensity warms in the sky (that she later tones down to read as blue); and feeling of atmosphere she creates.

She then painted this study in the afternoon, with overcast light. See the difference?

And finally, here’s the only painting I finished today, the “Old School” (now shops). I don’t think the light key is as accurate as I’d like, but it reads well, and that roof was a blast to paint!

Old Hanalei School (Kauai) – Oil on Linen – 10×12

Camille Przewodek Workshop, Day 2

The first day of Camille’s class, we followed her “Color Boot Camp”, which involves painting colored blocks in natural sunlight, after the technique she learned from Henry Henche.

These exercises allow you to clearly see color relationships. Each block is painted a different color (in light and shade), as well as two different colored table cloth. This technique is similar to the “color separation” technique I’ve written about before here. When you think about it, none of the colors in these studies should repeat, after all, they’re all separate colors. The same is true in nature, it’s extremely rare to see two things that are not the same the same color–especially when you introduce distance, space and air. Have trouble simplifying outdoors? I know I do. This simplies things greatly, so you can really focus and study on color.

We experienced mixed sun and shade during the day, so as the sun came and went, she moved between the overcast day study (above) and the full sun study (below).

A palette knife is used to you’re forced to not get too detailed, keep the colors clean and solid. You keep working each relationship paint over paint, constantly adjustmenting, keeping the light and shadow planes very clearly separated.

This is a great exercise to judge color and value relationships that is transferable to the field. Tomorrow, we’re going to in effect paint a “block”, but this time a building in a park.

Here’s another study, this featuring a rounded object:

I did paint a seascape after class, but it’s too dark to photograph (I like to photograph in natural light, in the shade). I’ll post tomorrow. ‘Til then!

Painting with Camille Przewodek

Camille Przewodek teaches a regular Monday class at her studio in Petaluma. She’s one of my favorite teachers (her new series of marsh paintings are incredible), and she has a nice group of regular students.

We started by Camille offering a crtique to see what everyone had accomplished since she’d seen them last. I happened to have a couple of paintings in the trunk, so had something to show (Land’s End, Fall in Golden Gate Park). She thinks my brushwork has come a long way, and likes the expressive strokes, as well as my drawing and composition skills. She felt I needed to work on depth (which I agree with).

I’m studying with Camille in Hawaii in February–and can’t wait! I know I’ll learn a lot, and be inspired by the locations we’ll paint. I can highly recommend Camille for any level student (click for her workshop information).

As we often do, we painted still life studies outdoors, some students painted color blocks (a great exercise) while others painted a traditional still life. I set up a couple of plastic lemons, a green bowl and a cream pitcher. Here it is.

Tips for a successful Ovanes Berberian Workshop

Click for movie of still life setups.Having been now to two Ovanes Berberian workshops, and realizing that lots of readers plan to attend as well (some this week), I thought I’d provide some suggestions for a successful workshop:

  • Most days, Ovanes doesn’t get out to look at his student’s work until 2-3pm. I tended to paint quick color studies in the morning, and take a long lunch break (with nap!). When I returned to paint larger studies around 2PM, he was there to help. Leave your early morning work by your easel so he can see those as well.
  • Although the materials list you’ll get says to take very large canvas, I don’t recommend it. First, you’re painting still life studies under trees and the light is shifting all the time. It’s much better to paint lots of smaller starts and show them to Ovanes. If you want to paint larger, setup outside the apple orchard: if you’re facing Ovanes’ house, this is the area to the far left, near the parking area. This area has a lot less light variation and will give you the time to paint large.
  • Due to the shifting light, I suggest you paint everything in shadow/mid-tone, and then add your lights in the last 10% of the painting. This works well for flowers, but less so for the table top and background, which you may need to scrape and repaint at the end to avoid chalky or muddy colors.
  • Apparently, Damar Varnish was left off the materials list. Remember, if you want to tone your canvas like Ovanes, bring Phthalo Blue, Black, Linseed Oil (1/8) and remaining 50% Damar Varnish, and Gum Spirits Turpentine (don’t use an odorless substitute in your medium).
  • Again, I would take lots of 8×10 – 9×12 to paint quick color and block-in studies, and a few larger (12×16 to 16×20) to paint a few finished pieces.
  • The suggested materials lists a LOT of color. You really don’t need them all, and if you’re not familiar with them, will likely not have success. I suggest you bring one warm, one cool for each color hue. If you’re really a beginner, suggest bringing Cad Yellow Light, Phthalo Blue, Quinacridone Red, Black and White. He’ll describe this basic starting palette in the Monday morning lecture.
  • Ovanes’ assistant Vickie Reese offers a tour of her nearby studio on Thurs. While her studio is great, this is actually a great time to get Ovanes’ time. He’s shy, so typically when everyone piles into their cars for this tour, he’ll come out when there are only a few dedicated folks left. I got lots of quality time with him then.
  • When Ovanes does come out, follow him around and listen and watch him paint on other students canvas. Sure, you want him to critique your own work, but it’s just as valuable to witness his work with others.
  • Bring several paintings (3-4) to the Friday afternoon (5PM) critique. He spends a lot of time on these, and the information is really valuable. You’ll probably get more time in this critique with Ovanes than you will during the week outside. Also realize that Ovanes will be much more critical of the better painters, and will offer less praise. He tends to want to really push the better painters forward, and offer lots of praise to novices so as to not discourage them.
  • For the Tuesday and Thursday night demos–be prepared for a late night (12-1am). The demos are really amazing. John tapes each one and makes them available in DVD format by the end of the week.
  • Want to see what the still life setups look like, click the photo above for a movie.

Have you attended an Ovanes Berberian workshop? Please chime in with your own tips using the comments feature. Want to prepare for your workshop in advance? My sponsor, Virtual Art Academy is run by Barry John Raybould, who also studied with Ovanes. His online, self-study courses are great. Click here to learn more.

Update: To get on the email list to attend a Ovanes Berberian workshop, contact Ray Morrison:





Ovanes Berberian Workshop, Day 4

Today wasn’t terribly productive as I’m starting to wear out. I did one scraper because I started too early in the morning and the light chnaged too quickly to finish. At least I got two stages done. Probably could have finished it the next day, but I rarely do that (short attention span 🙂 Click here to see stage one, and here to see stage two of this unfinished, scraped study.

I’m much happier with my second effort, which Ovanes helped with towards the end. Here’s part of the initial blockin. I kept the colors in the approximate value range and kept the color “articulate”…that is, not muddy, easily read as a green, red or a certain mixture…At this stage I did some warm/cool variation for each object, but generally kept that towards the end.

Still Life Stage 1

Here’s the painting at the next stage, some block-in color, and I’m starting to add some warm/cool color combinations. As you can see, I removed the green tin on the right (see original drawing above) as I felt it distracted from the composition and I wanted to keep things simple. Ovanes will often stress constantly, create warm/cool variations of color to create a nice vibration for the eye. He said this is the main thing he learned from master Serge Bongart.

Still Life Stage 2

This is the finished study. Ovanes really liked the colors in the top middle ( red flower and the colors behind it). He advised that I simplify the background (which I did) as well as the lower left red flower. I’m happy with the sense of light in this painting, in particular the far right flowers and the warm/cool colors in the vase in shadow. I may add some bits of light to some of the flowers, as I like the sharp bit of light on the far right yellow flower.

Finished still life
Update: To get on the email list to attend a Ovanes Berberian workshop, contact Ray Morrison: